The following is the statement of Yolanda Lezama Clarke, President of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. This is her response to reports of offensive comments made on Facebook by members of the NYPD, about the Carnival and the West Indian American community. It was published in Caribbean Life, Dec. 11, 2011.
Hearing and reading about these remarks made by NYPD officers, “animals, savages, bomb them” was truly disappointing, however, not surprising. While these are the views of many, I am sure that does not reflect all of the administration. These are gross, irresponsible descriptions that undermine the mission and purpose of the event.
WIADCA is grateful for the ongoing long-term support of the Mayor’s Office, Commissioner Kelly, the NYPD and all of those officers who assist in the Labor Day parade, carnival and events. There are many NYPD officers that believe that our community, similar to so many other New York City parades and events, is simply having a wonderful time in Carnival song, dance, music and art. They also know and believe that WIADCA’s families, participants, supporters and children are expressing the performance, joy and exuberance of Carnival.
WIADCA is the largest parade and carnival in the city and a significant economic component of revenue for both the city as well as New York State. The positive economic impact on New York’s large and small businesses is unparalleled. The hotels, MTA riders, restaurants, and other tourism -supporting components of the city would suffer greatly without the Labor Day event.
Carnival is supposed to be a euphoric experience that is enjoyed by all who attend, police included. It is meaningful and brings together many friends and family members from “back home” every Labor Day in a reunion filled with music, island food, and beautiful costumes. The difference with this Carnival is that it is celebrated by many of the islands where Eastern Parkway comes alive every Labor Day with representation from Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, and even Panama. This carnival has become a celebration of over 2.5 million people, which also speaks volumes about the funds it contributes to the city’s coffers.
We are extremely disappointed to learn about the Facebook page set up by some NYPD officers that maligned not only the Labor Day event but also the participants and members of our community. The language and expressions used to characterize our community members is both racist and volatile and cannot be characterized in any other manner.
In addition, in sharp contrast to the current official reactions to any and all terrorist-type comments and actions, the comment such as: “I say have the parade one more year and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out,” would not be tolerated in any part of New York. It would not be tolerated on New Year’s in Times Square, it would not be tolerated at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it would not be tolerated in Central Park. NO EXCEPTION can be made. It cannot be tolerated on Labor Day.
If these statements are true, it justifies the need for more cultural awareness. When segments of our community, especially those who are supposed to protect our youth express these feelings and sentiments regarding other groups, then we need more effective dialogue, because it represents the most obvious need.
The fact that there are members of the New York community who are sworn to protect the rights of New York citizens and who function as role-models for our children, in 2012 would express such vile and historically racist beliefs, is greatly disturbing. Any culture of police officers’ contempt for New York’s Black and Brown communities — either real or symbolic, cannot be tolerated.
We are calling on our elected officials and communitiy leaders to support our effort to end any and all police contempt towards members of our community. We are calling on Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio for an immediate meeting to assist us in rooting out all volatile racist behavior and attitudes from members of our NYPD.
One medium could be a “wellness over violence initiative” to heal and address these types of concerns in order to bring us closer together, as a community and a nation.
In 1826 Thomas Jefferson passed away and stated that he was leaving the issue of race relations for another generation to solve. Did he mean 2012? Must it take so long for us to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers of this great nation? If we choose to become a leader when will we completely grow into our own ideal and can we bring these members of the NYPD along?
Neither the violence exhibited within the community due to various socio-economic ills facing people of color, or the violence against the community, including external and internal aspects of racism, can be accepted in any form. Today’s words become tomorrow’s bullets. It cannot be allowed to exist anywhere, any longer.
Yolanda Lezama Clarke
President, West Indian American Day Carnival Association.
For the original post: Disappointed at NYPD cops’ Facebook comments • Caribbean Life.